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SPEED LIMIT II

Speed Limit

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars SL's second album came roughly a year later than the debut, by which time the band found a major label (RCA) and changed bassist, enrolling Magma alumni Janik Top, but lost their guitarist as well (not replaced). With a stunning artwork from Sheffer himself, the group is more ambitious, even using a string section on and some intriguing vocals.

The opening track Time's Tune (a 15 minutes 4-part epic) has a real superb crescendoing start where Sheffer's winds and Bucchi's electric piano plunge into a torrid fusion of molten rock, disaggregating jazz, wild female howlings for its opening movement Breese. The band gets even hotter and quicker with run around The Block, where Coltrane's more transcendental (past 65) music is obviously the influence. The third movement heads back to the Breese mainly through the aerial vocalizing (they seem female, but none other than the core male musicians are credited with vocals), while the track goes out on a Bucchi (he wrote the whole track) piano piece. As for the JT-penned African Dance, the music is more of the Saharan kind than tropical Black Africa, and honestly I'd prefer hearing the real stuff than having SL wasting 4 minutes of precious vinyl time.

The flipside is occupied by an ambitious 20 minutes Sheffer-penned Pastoral Idyl, separated into 5 movements and using a string section, which happens to introduce the track. While the use of the string quintet is in itself adventurous, I find that Sheffer put the strings at use that well. When they intervene, they seem to weigh tons, drag their feet screechingly and often border the dissonant. The second movement Lemon Tree is a fast piano-driven improve where Sheffer and Bucchi clash forces and end up with a strong pressed lemon juice. As for the vocal section it is a weird almost opera voice. The track goes on a bit bizarrely, the whole thing remaining rather dry, borrowed and (dare I say it?) academic.

While their second album is somewhat superior to the debut, both are extremely valid jazz-rock, but not bringing much new (even counting the Pastoral Idyl) by the time of their releases. BTW, I hear the Belle label incremented the tracks with the movements rather than the tracks on their Cd mini-Lp reissue, so don't be surprised to find 10 increments where even the special Japanese insert announces only the three original ones. Despite such a strange screw-up, SL 2 is a more an accomplished album, so if interested, start with that second album.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#172574)
Posted Friday, May 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars On their first album Seffer composed side one and Bucchi side two. Here it's the other way around (just to be fair I suppose) although the final song on side one was composed by Janick Top. Janick Top replaces Joe Dugrenot on bass from the first album as the major change, although the lead guitarist from the debut is gone and not replaced unfortunately, as his playing was a highlight for me from that record. There is a string section as well on this one and another big change from the debut are the prominant vocal melodies. I swear that it's a female singing but as Hugues mentions the only vocals credited are to 4 of the 5 male players.

"Breeze Borealis" opens with flute as vocal melodies come in. Bass, drums and piano create the melody as sax arrives 2 1/2 minutes in. Great sound,especially Top's deep bass lines. The vocal melodies get theatrical (crazy) before 5 minutes. "A Run Around The Block" renminds me of the debut as it is more jazzy and uptempo with Seffer leading the way. "Jettatura" really has it's focus on the vocal melodies and flute early. Nice bass 1 1/2 minutes in as sax comes in. This is a cool relaxing tune with a groove. Vocal melodies with flute end it. "Good Night Little Bear" is a short song with piano melodies throughout.

"African Dance No.3" is the Janick Top song and my least favourite. It sounds like an ethnic tune of some sort with chanting. "Pastoral Idyl Part I" opens with strings that sound like background music from an old TV show.Thankfully it changes 1 1/2 minutes in as the strings stop and the bass takes over. "Lemon Tree" has a jazzy bass / drum intro as sax comes in. Piano after 2 minutes. Nice sax work after 4 minutes. I like this one a lot and it reminds me of their debut. "Reaching The Stars" features more strings with vocal melodies before 2 1/2 minutes. "To The Girl Of The Moon" has more strings as vocal melodies again join in, but this time they are more theatrical. "Pastoral Idyl Part II" opens with strings but changes to a Zeuhlish melody as deep bass and vocal melodies take over. Sax and piano come in. This sounds much better than the strings, although the strings are back to end the song.

I'm in the minority but I do prefer the debut.The jazzy melodies dominate on that one plus I love the guitar. This one is much more adventerous with more variety though. I'm just not big on the orchestration and operatic vocals. The passages I usually really like remind me of the debut. A matter of taste I suppose.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#175544)
Posted Friday, June 27, 2008 | Review Permalink

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